Brian Lynch – Unsung Heroes – Hollistic Music Works HMW 1, 68:20 ****1/2:
(Brian Lynch, trumpet and flugelhorn; Vincent Herring, alto sax; Alex Hoffman, tenor sax; Rob Schneiderman, piano; David Wong, bass; Pete Van Nostrand, drums; Vincente “Little Johnny” Rivera, congas (tracks 3, 6))
Brian Lynch has been a mainstay on the hard bop scene since the 1980s. He has played with Charles McPherson, Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band, and was one of the last trumpeters with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Since the early 1990s Lynch has been active with Phil Woods over a long period of time. He has over fifteen CDs as a leader. We reviewed his collaboration with Eddie Palmieri, The Brian Lynch/ Eddie Palmieri Project – which was on many critics Best of the Year lists. Lynch has had a strong interest in the salsa/jazz movement.
Brian is also a jazz trumpet historian as in 2000, on Sharp Nine Records, he recorded a tribute to the jazz trumpet masters that included Woody Shaw and Tom Harrell. Happily, Brian is back with a new CD honoring trumpeters, this time a dedication to horn men from the 1940s to the present that have not received the acclaim that they are due. Trumpet aficionados will recognize Charles Tolliver, and perhaps Joe Gordon, but for many, great mainstream players like Tommy Turrentine (Stanley’s brother), and Louis Smith might be more unknown. Unsung Heroes has been issued in several formats. The two versions available for download and on DVD expand the roster of honorees to include Howard McGhee, Donald Byrd, Ira Sullivan, and Donald Byrd. Those covered on the CD version are a tribute to Gordon, Turrentine, Tolliver, Smith, as well as Charles Sullivan (Kamau Adilifu), Idrees Sulieman, and present day trumpeter Claudio Roditi.
To pay proper tribute to these brass men who deserve more adulation, Lynch has assembled a crack back-up band that includes Vincent Herring, and Rob Schneiderman. “Terra Firma Irma” for Joe Gordon, begins with a recognizable vamp before Vincent Herring digs in with a hot solo. When Lynch enters, you immediate recognize his crisp attack as he blows with authority both warm, vibrant, and with full command of the entire range of the trumpet. He is easily comparable to the best of the 50s and 60s trumpet stars. Lynch gives us two visits with Tommy Turrentine (a personal favorite of mine), who had only one real session as a leader, though he was featured for an extended period of time with his brother with Max Roach (which can heard on the Max Roach Mosaic box set). “I Could Never Forget You” is a lovely ballad, while “Big Red” has 60s classic Blue Note hard bop written all over it – complete with horn ensemble and the distinctive mix of sweet and tart simpatico that brings you back to that period of hard bop nirvana.
“Further Arrivals” dedicated to the most unsung hero, Charles Sullivan, later known as Kamau Adilifu, is the longest track at nearly ten minutes. Lynch digs in here with a blistering attack that does not let up. Sullivan reportedly had a strong early influence on Lynch. Rob Schneiderman on piano gets to stretch out here as well. Pete Van Nostrand trades lines with Rob and Brian, setting as a ballast for the band.
Idrees Sulieman, who spent much of his career in Scandinavia, was a first rate bop trumpeter for near five decades and Lynch’s “Saturday Afternoon at Four” is bop-driven. Alex Hoffman, on tenor, is featured here. “Household of Saud” for Charles Tolliver comes closest to leaving the mainstream idiom as Tolliver’s playing can be a flirt with the avant. “RoditiSamba” for active trumpeter, Roditi, is spot on with a Brazilian flavor and the congas of Rivero.
“Unsung Blues” is the only track not written or dedicated to a specific artist and is an upbeat vehicle for Lynch to take center stage where he shows off his prodigious chops. The closing track, “Wetu” is dedicated for Louis Smith, an early bright light for Blue Note, who then did a large series of recordings for Steeplechase until the early 2000s.
Thank goodness for Brian Lynch for keeping the jazz trumpet tradition alive, both entertaining and educating a new audience of brass lovers. More about the Unsung Heroes can be found on the website https://hollisticmusicworks.com/hear/brian-lynch-unsung-heroes-project/
TrackList: Terra Firma Irma, I Could Never Forget You, Further Arrivals, Saturday Afternoon at Four, Household of Saud, RoditiSamba, Big Red, Unsung Blues, Wetu
– Jeff Krow